Inside the Nurse Mind: 16 Ways We Think Differently Than Everyone Else


I remember many of my professors in nursing school encouraging us to “Think like a nurse” & describing to us how differently our minds would process certain information in just a few short years thanks to our nursing experience.  At the time, I (& probably most of my fellow students) couldn’t quite picture exactly what they had in mind, but after just a year or so of nursing I knew exactly what those professors meant.  Nurses really do think differently than the average person (& differently than how we thought before we became nurses).  As many have said before me, this is truly a profession that changes you!  In light of that, as I was taking a shower the other day I thought it might be fun to create a list of some of the many ways nurses think differently than everyone else.  So here it is!today was a good day

  1. Our standard for what makes up a good day can be pretty bizarre.  See the picture above.  It’s not a joke.
  2. Nurses can collect a stool sample or clean up blood & other bodily fluids, then wash our hands & go eat lunch without a second thought.
  3. Along that same vein (there’s a nurse-y phrase!), there is no topic of conversation that nurses deem inappropriate . . . even at the dinner table.
  4. Once you’ve been a nurse for a while, you’ll find yourself constantly evaluating various scenarios for fall risks. See a puddle on the floor in a public restroom or some other situation that might pose a risk of falling, particularly for an elderly or frail person?  As a nurse you can no longer ignore these things.  And even if you’re someone like me who hates to be a complaining customer, as a nurse you’ll find yourself compelled to speak to a manager or someone who can be sure to alleviate the situation & decrease the risk of someone falling (& maybe becoming one of your patients!).fall risk
  5. On a similar topic, I know there have been multiple occasions over the past few years when I have notified a restaurant or other business that the water in their bathroom was dangerously hot & could potentially burn someone, especially someone like a diabetic with decreased nerve sensation. I know this is something I would never have thought to actually report before I became a nurse.
  6. As a nurse there are days when you’re really grateful to have a stuffy nose & thus no sense of smell.

    As a disclaimer, I do NOT condone smoking.  I just thought this was a funny cartoon.

    As a disclaimer, I do NOT condone smoking. I just thought this was a funny cartoon.

  7. When you read the weather report & see that the temperature overnight is going to be zero degrees with a wind-chill of negative 20, your first thought is “I wonder how many homeless people will be in the ER with “chest pain” tonight?” And your second thought is “I can’t blame them for coming in & I wish we could give them all beds & a warm place to sleep without taking time away from those who are truly sick.”
  8. Medical TV shows have been ruined for nurses because we can’t watch them without screaming at the TV every time we see an error (which is often . . . Asystole can’t be shocked, people!!) or every time we realize how completely untrue to real life these shows are. (Doctors don’t start IVs or give medications or perform MRIs & CT scans.  Nurses & various techs do those things!  And in real life, nurses & doctors don’t have time to have sex in the elevator or the linen closet, at least anywhere I’ve ever worked.  I could go on & on but I’ll stop for fear of boring you.)

    scrubs tv

    “Scrubs” is the only medical TV show I can watch now that I’m a nurse because it’s just plain funny & frankly more realistic than “House” or “Grey’s Anatomy.”

  9. Nurses (& other medical personnel) view the holidays differently than almost everyone else. We might be excited for holiday events, but usually we know we will have to miss them or at least plan our family’s celebrations around our own work schedule.
  10. On a similar topic, as much as I love snow, I must admit I view it a bit differently now that I’m a nurse. After all, there’s no such thing as a snow day at home when you’re in the healthcare field. no snow day
  11. This is probably slightly off-topic, but only nurses can know the frustration of not having the authority to give your patient a Tylenol or a cough drop without a doctor’s order, yet having the responsibility to know exactly when & what to notify the doctor about at any hour of the day or night, not to mention coordinating care between all the various disciplines of healthcare (RT, PT, OT, ST, lab, social work, doctors, family members, etc) who all expect us to be the expert on every patient we have.
  12. Nurses obsess over I&O (intake & output; in other words how much you drink & how much you pee) like most people obsess over sports statistics . . . Ok, that might be a slight exaggeration, but as a nurse I know I sometimes have to remind myself that I don’t have to measure my own I&O.  That is NOT an exaggeration!I&O
  13. Nurses know that sweet old ladies & kindly old gentlemen can be exactly that during the day time . . . But once the sun goes down, you never know what “personality” will come out! (In case you’re wondering, this is the “sun-downer’s” phenomenon associated with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia as well as the even more serious condition called delirium that often sets in during hospitalizations.)
  14. As nurses, thinking about starting our own families can be incredibly scary because all we can think about is all the things we know can go wrong during pregnancy & delivery. (Maybe this isn’t true for everyone, but it’s definitely true for me.)
  15. Really big “juicy” veins are like porn for nurses. Trust me.nurse porn veins
  16. I’m sure a lot of teachers, police officers, & various people in other professions also feel this way about their chosen field, but as nurses we know that despite the millions of things about healthcare that drive us crazy, there is nothing else we’d rather be doing.
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